REVIEW: Bisham Concert Band at St Mary’s Church, Princes Risborough with music to celebrate spring

Bisham Concert Band
Bisham Concert Band

A programme of light music to celebrate spring was performed by Bisham Concert Band in the warm and comfortable surroundings of St Mary’s Church in Princes Risborough.

Conductor Michael Pegram entertained the audience with anecdotes about the music choices which included such varied pieces as marches including Army of the Nile and King Cotton interspersed with jazz, Latin, movie and stage blockbusters and a compilation of music by Eric Clapton.

The band, created from a wide age range, undertake bi-annual tours abroad and will embark on a tour of spa towns in Germany in May. And on the evidence of their concert in Risborough they are sure to do themselves proud.

The band produced a lovely rich and powerful sound that filled the church, starting with King Cotton by John Philip Sousa who formed his own band after leaving the American Marines.

The tone then changed dramatically to a compilation of Eric Clapton compositions. Conductor Mr Pegram admitted the choice might not be considered normal fayre for such a concert, but said: “He has written some tremendous music that works well with a big band.”

The selection included Layla his famous tribute to Patti Boyd, and Tears in Heaven the poignant memorial to his young son Conor who died at the age of four and a half after falling from a sky scraper window in Manhattan.

Frances Pearson then performed a solo on trumpet with A Trumpeter’s Lullaby by Leroy Anderson, who also wrote pieces called Sleigh Ride and The Typewriter. Ms Pearson played with a soft and tender touch and was given gentle support from the rest of the band.

Inbetween the performances Mr Pegram spoke to the audience, relating stories and giving useful and interesting background information about the music and composers and explaining why the programme choices were made.

These included Birdland, show music Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Mr Pegram said the latter was chosen as this year there is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe and the band wanted to mark the occasion in a gentle way with one of the most popular songs of the era, written in 1939.

The second half opened with Salute to a Hero by Philip Sparke, moved through a selection from Chicago, a compilation of exciting Latin music and concluded with a spine tingling collection of movie blockbusters that included Titanic and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The clarinets produced a particularly evocative contribution to My Heart Will Go On from Titanic.

The standard of musicianship was excellent throughout the event. Three soloists performed, in addition to the trumpet, there was an euphonium player and a piccolo player who were extremely impressive.

The band, superbly led by Mr Pegram, is a joy to listen to and will be part of Marlow Festival of Wind and Brass Music on Saturday May 16. For information about that event see www.musicinmarlow.org.uk